Santa Ana Parking Control Officer Monica Leal had just been dispatched to a suspicious vehicle call along the congested and busy streets of Camille and Cypress Street when she was approached by two young boys on bicycles.
Seems they had an important question for her.
“Do we have to wear bike helmets,” they asked.
Officer Leal, who has been with Santa Ana PD for 18 years and is also a mother of a 10-year-old boy who likes to ride bikes, let them know it was a California law that kids under the age of 17 must wear a helmet when riding a bike.
What she heard next, made her stop and think.
“They told me they couldn’t afford helmets and I didn’t know what to say,” Officer Leal said. “This was a basic necessity and they couldn’t afford to buy them. That felt like a big deal for me.”
She debated on handing them each $20 so they could use it toward buying a helmet, but she worried about what their parents would think. Instead, she asked the boys where they lived and asked them to do her a favor and ride their bikes only on sidewalks.
They thanked her and she watched them ride off along the busy street.
“All day it bugged me,” Officer Leal said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about them out there without helmets.”
She decided to put in a call to the Department’s Community Services unit and find out if she could still help them.
Officer Leal discovered they had helmets at the Department from a grant they received for the community. She and her partner grabbed a couple of bike helmets and made their way back toward the neighborhood where she met them.
She looked for the apartment complex the two boys had shown her when they met earlier and she looked for the bright green bicycle one of them had.
“We spotted them, and they recognized me and came over,” Officer Leal said. “We handed them coupons for free Slurpees and two bike helmets … and honestly, they were so sweet and happy with what we gave them. It was special.”
“It honestly it made my week.”